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Text: ' . . . A Call to Arms to Restore the Vitality of the American Dream'

February 16, 1993|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Here is the text of President Clinton's address to the nation Monday night:

Good evening.

I have chosen this day on which we honor two great presidents to talk with you about the serious problems and the great promise of our country, and the absolute necessity for change if we're to secure a better future for ourselves and for our children.

On Wednesday evening, I'll address the Congress about the specifics of my plan. But first I turn to you for your strength and support, to enlist you in the cause of changing our course.

This is a momentous time for our nation. We stand at the end of the Cold War and on the edge of the 21st Century. For two decades, we've moved steadily toward a global economy in which we must compete with people around the world--a world which requires us to work hard and smart, a world in which putting people first is more than a political slogan; it's a philosophy of governing and the only path to prosperity.

Investing in People's Future

For 12 years, we've followed a very different philosophy. It declared that government is the problem, that fairness to the middle class is less important than keeping taxes low on the wealthy, that government can do nothing about our deepest problems: lost jobs, declining wages, increasing inequality, inadequate educational opportunity and a health care system that costs a fortune but does too little.

During those 12 years, as governor of Arkansas, I followed a very different course, more like what you've done at home and at work. I invested in the future of our people and balanced the state budget with honesty and fairness and without gimmicks. It's just common sense. But in the 26 days I've been your President, I've already learned that here in Washington common sense isn't too common. And you've paid a lot for that loss of common sense.

The typical middle class family is working harder for less. Despite the talk of a recovery, more than 9 million of our fellow citizens are still out of work. And as this chart indicates, if this were a real, normal recovery, 3 million more Americans would already be back at work by now. In fact, there are more jobless people now than there were at what the experts call the bottom of this recession.

All during this last 12 years, the federal deficit has roared out of control. Look at this: The big tax cuts for the wealthy, the growth in government spending and soaring health care costs all cause the federal deficit to explode. Our debt is now four times as big as it was in 1980. That's right. In the last 12 years, we've piled up four times as much debt as in the previous 200.

Now, if all that debt had been invested in strengthening our economy, we'd at least have something to show for our money: more jobs, better educated people, a health care system that works. But as you can see, while the deficit went up, investments in the things that make us stronger and smarter, richer and safer, were neglected. Less invested in education, less in our children's future, less in transportation, less in local enforcement. An awful lot of that money was just wasted.

This matters. When you don't invest in jobs and education and economic opportunity, unemployment goes up and our incomes go down. And when the deficit gets bigger and bigger and bigger, the government takes more of your money just for interest payments. And then it's harder for you to borrow money for your own business or to afford a new home or to send a child to college.

That's exactly what's been happening. Once our living standards doubled every 25 years. But at the rate we're going today, our living standard won't double for another 100 years, until our grandchildren's grandchildren are born. That's too long. We must act now to restore the American dream.

An Expensive Status Quo

Despite the enormity of this crisis, believe it or not, the status quo still has its defenders: people who point to hopeful statistics, like the recent increase in productivity and consumer confidence, and say we should do nothing.

Well, American business has been forced to become more competitive in this global economy. And I'm glad that consumer confidence is up since the election. But we're not generating jobs or making headway on these other long-term problems.

My message to you is clear: The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.

After all, that's why you sent me here--not to keep this seat warm, but to work for fundamental change, to make Washington work for all Americans, not just the special interests, and to chart a course that will enable us to compete and win in this new world.

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